Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic is seeking his second straight Grand Slam and a third title at the US Open in New York this year. Standing between him and a place in the second week is a familiar foe, Richard Gasquet. Whilst Djokovic’s injury troubles and his triumphant return from them were a constant topic of discussion, Gasquet’s injury woes have been rather overlooked. But now fit once more, announce his return with a memorable victory. Who will come out on top?
Djokovic and Gasquet have met 13 times on Tour and it is not a match up that Gasquet has much enjoyed, losing 12 times to the Serbian. That includes their first two matches, which Djokovic won in 2006 in Madrid and in 2007 in the final in Estoril. Gasquet had his revenge at the Tour Finals later that year, but since then it has been all Djokovic. Their most recent meeting came in the Wimbledon semifinals in 2015 with Djokovic emerging a 7-6 6-4 6-4 victor.
Path to the third round
Djokovic, who arrived in New York fresh from completing the Career Golden Masters, has made rather heavy work of his opening two matches. In the first he faced former junior world #1 Marton Fucsovics on a brutally hot day that left both men struggling. But it was Djokovic who persevered, advancing a 6-3 3-6 6-4 6-0 winner. He then started strongly against Tennys Sandgren of the USA, only to falter in the third set. But he rediscovered the winning touch in the fourth to win through 6-1 6-3 6-7 6-2.
Gasquet, the 26th seed, began his US Open campaign against Yuichi Sugita of Japan, last year a titlist in Antalya but with just one win to his name at the US Open. He wasn’t able to pick up a second as Gasquet delivered an impressive performance to dismiss his challenge 6-3 6-1 6-3. He also looked sharp in his second round clash with Djokovic’s countryman Laslo Djere. Gasquet bested the Serbian 6-3 7-6 6-3 to return to third round at the US Open for the first time since 2015.
How do they match up?
Both Gasquet and Djokovic are excellent athletes equipped with superb groundstrokes. But, as evidenced by his dominance in the head-to-head, Djokovic has been able to carve out a number of advantages when playing Gasquet. The most significant is on serve and return. Djokovic has consistently been able to serve better and return better than Gasquet. And though he has yet to reach the high standards he sets for himself in either department in New York, his numbers have still been good.
He has broken serve 13 times so far and made 71% of his first serves against Sandgren. Gasquet made 70% of his first serves against Djere, winning the point 79% of the time, but his serve will receive a sterner examination against Djokovic. In their most recent meeting, Gasquet won just 66% of the points behind his first serve, and landed it just 51% of the time. Djokovic applies extra pressure to a server because he returns so well which makes the server feel he must do more than usual.
Unfortunately for Gasquet, though he was a prodigiously talented junior, the players he once bested as a junior have long since overtaken him, ironing out their weaknesses and sharpening their strengths in a way he never has. And he has seen his weaknesses painfully exposed time and time again by them. For example, against Djokovic he has won just one set in their last ten matches and expect him to suffer more in this one. Djokovic in four.